Fall 2003 was when our paths first crossed in a socially meaningful way. Fabio Rojas and Rashawn Ray joined me in the department of Sociology at Indiana University. Fabio, an enigmatic education scholar from the University of Chicago with a background in rational choice, organizations, and mathematics, started as an Assistant Professor that term. And Rashawn, a curious student with a knack for theory, mixed methods, and public sociology, enrolled as a first-year graduate student in our PhD program. I immediately enjoyed their presence; they were great colleagues and friends to me from the beginning.
Although Rashawn and Fabio have picked up some impressive credentials in their short careers, they are both—almost—the same great colleagues and friendly guys as when I met them 14 years ago. At that time, Fabio had great (shorter) hair, as well as no firm attachment to any theoretical or methodological orientation. Rashawn, on the other hand, had a warm soul and a unique, probing curiosity about social interactions. They were—and are— great storytellers, often sharing their novel insights, advice, and time with colleagues on an array of interesting topics. In the context of these collegial interactions, I learned that they are both consumed with understanding how humans function in concert.
As the new editors for Contexts, Rashawn Ray and Fabio Rojas are now invaluable colleagues both within our discipline and beyond. They will guide the discussion between the voices of sociologists within the ASA and the wider public—between academic sociology and the real people we are interested in studying. Indeed, this is a complex, difficult discussion. These scholars, however, are well-suited to lead Contexts in its mission of making “cutting-edge social research accessible to general readers.” They are both public sociologists publishing in The New York Times, the Huffington Post, and The Washington Post. Furthermore, they often appear and/or have their work discussed in an array of premier media outlets (e.g., Al Jazeera, Headline News, National Public Radio). Thus, Rashawn and Fabio are participants in the existing public discourse they hope to shape.
Rashawn and Fabio plan to build on the recent success of Contexts by their predecessors, Syed Ali and Philip N. Cohen, by cultivating the magazine as the “voice of sociology” among the public. Like most of us, they feel that sociology and sociologists engage subjects with both exceptional content and extraordinary implications. The sociological brand, though, does not exist in the current media landscape—most non-academic readers find short takes on the sociological perspective sprinkled around popular media outlets. Rashawn and Fabio want to change the landscape. They plan to continue the thematic sections of the magazine, and add several new dimensions such as web content showcasing “Lectures by Great Writers,” promoting accessible articles that highlight policy-relevant research, and featuring “Debate” articles on pressing topics. Additionally, the editorial team plans to explore formal and informal mechanisms for expanding the audience for the rich social content the magazine—and sociology—offers to the public.
Altogether, the new editorial team promises to further cultivate Contexts as an intellectual content leader in the American public landscape. After working with Rashawn and Fabio for over a decade, I cannot think of a better team of colleagues and people to guide our flagship magazine.
Credit: Rashawn Ray
Rashawn Ray is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Applied Social Science Research Lab at the University of Maryland-College Park. He was named the 2016-17 Edward McK. Johnson, Jr. Endowed Faculty Fellow, which provides a fellowship to a faculty member whose “teaching provides inspiration and encouragement for students to enter careers in local government.” Formerly, Ray was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar at the University of California-Berkeley. Ray’s research addresses the mechanisms that manufacture and maintain racial and social inequality. His work also speaks to ways that inequality may be attenuated through racial uplift activism and social policy. Ray has published over 40 books, articles, book chapters, and op-eds. Currently, Ray is co-investigator with Dr. Kris Marsh of a study examining implicit bias, body-worn cameras, and police-citizen interactions with 1,800 police officers with the Prince George’s County (MD) Police Department.
Credit: Fabio Rojas
Fabio Rojas is Professor of Sociology at Indiana University-Bloomington. Since joining the faculty in 2003, Rojas has accumulated a record of scholarship, teaching, and administration. From 2008 to 2010, he was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. Professor Rojas studies social movements, organizational behavior, and institutional theory. His work has appeared in leading social science journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, the Academy of Management Journal, and Social Forces. He is the author of From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline (2007, Johns Hopkins University Press) and Theory for the Working Sociologist (2017, Columbia University Press) With Michael T. Heaney, he is also the co-author of Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party After 9/11 (2015, Cambridge University Press). This last book won multiple awards, such as the 2016 Leon Epstein Award for the best book on the topic of political organizations and parties from the American Political Science Association.